A Legacy of Faith

By Bryan Owen

It’s time for show and tell!

Today I want to share with you a birthday gift I received from my mom and dad when I turned 10 years old. It’s a leather-bound, red-letter edition of the King James Version of the Bible.

This Bible became my close spiritual companion. And by the time I finished middle school, I had read it cover to cover. I can’t say I understood it all! But I did spend time immersed in Holy Scripture. And I discovered in these sacred writings a deep and life-giving connection to Jesus Christ.

I’m reminded of the words of St. Paul to the young Timothy in today’s epistle lesson:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14-15).

Timothy became acquainted with the sacred writings as a child. Perhaps in ways he didn’t always understand, Timothy discovered the living God in the Scriptures. Through Scripture, God touched his heart and changed his life.

We cannot overestimate the importance of Holy Scripture in our lives as Christians. For as St. John Chrysostom notes, the exhortation of the Scripture is given to us so that we may be rendered complete and that we may grow to maturity.

We read, meditate upon, and study Scripture to be changed. We engage Scripture to be transformed by God’s word written into the likeness of God’s Word Incarnate, “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 John 2:1).

But there’s another side to what St. Paul is saying to the young Timothy that’s critically important for all of us to take to heart. Because it’s not just the sacred writings all on their own that teach and form us; it’s not just about individuals reading the Bible all by themselves apart from community.

Quite the contrary. Coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ is also about the relationships we have with other people whose lives have also been transformed by the truths of Scripture. It’s about belonging to the fellowship of faith we call the Church, the people of God whose lives bear witness to Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

That’s why St. Paul encourages Timothy to not just persevere in what he has learned, to not just hold his own when it comes to a set of doctrines or core beliefs. In addition, St. Paul also admonishes Timothy to remember “from whom you learned it” (2 Tim. 3:14).

None of us comes to faith in Christ on our own. Nobody becomes a Christian all by themself. We learn how to follow Jesus from others. We receive the Christian faith from persons who have themselves received it as a gift from still other people in a line of teachers, witnesses, and examples that go all the way back to the first disciples sitting at the feet of Jesus.

There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We’re all a part of the communion of the saints, living and dead, who teach and pass on the good news of Jesus Christ.

Earlier in this letter, St. Paul mentions who two of those people were in Timothy’s life. St. Paul writes: “I’m reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (2 Tim. 1:5).

Timothy learned about Jesus from his grandmama and his mama. They were his first and most influential teachers. They were the ones who gave him a solid foundation in the faith. What a powerful reminder of the important role of parents and grandparents in raising children as disciples of Jesus Christ! Y’all are on the frontlines.

We receive a faith that makes a difference in our lives as a gift from people who live that faith every day. Genuine faith comes to us from people who care enough to be there with words of wisdom and encouragement, and sometimes with words of warning and rebuke. It comes from people who care enough to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

People like Lois and Eunice in the life of the young Timothy. People who embody faith in Christ in their words and deeds. People who serve as examples of what it looks like to live as a Christian.

Who are those examples in your lives?

Was it a grandparent or a parent? A teacher? A coach? A Sunday school or youth group leader? A priest or pastor? A sibling or spouse? A friend?

Think for a moment about who those people have been in your lives. Picture their faces in your mind’s eye. Remember things they said and did that meant so much to you. And give thanks for their life and witness.

Lately we’ve been highlighting that part of our mission statement that names one of our core commitments as “caring for one another.”

That’s what Eunice and Lois did for their beloved child, Timothy. They cared enough to make the time and go to the trouble to share the Christian faith with him. They cared enough to set good examples for him. They cared enough to make sure he would receive adequate instruction, attend worship regularly, and take advantage of opportunities to grow in Christ. They cared enough to be there for him when he needed them, to support, to encourage, and to guide him along the right path.

That happens in so many ways here at St. Luke’s. Some of it is directly connected to the study of Holy Scripture, as the Bible studies on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sunday mornings attest.

But even when the Bible is not the explicit focus, our Christian formation offerings for persons of all ages are informed by the truths of the Scriptures. All of our offerings are centered in Christ. They are intended to deepen our relationship with Christ so that we may know Christ and make Christ known.

The persons who give their time to teach, to mentor, and to be examples for our children, youth, and adults — we owe them a great debt of thanks. The families we have in this church whose legacy spans several generations — we owe them a great debt of thanks. All of these persons set an example that deepens the work that we as parents and grandparents do. And they are the ones that, later in life, our children and youth may remember and say:

That experience in Sunday school, that mission trip to Houston with the youth group, that time an adult in the church cared enough to reach out to me, that time I was encouraged to serve the needy in my community, that youth confirmation class and the weekend retreat we went on … that made Jesus real in my life. That helped me grasp what it means to live as a Christian. That made me want to live a life that honors God.

Whether it’s on a Sunday morning, in a weekday Bible study, an outreach or mission trip, a confirmation class, an EYC gathering, or just someone extending a hand or offering a hug — things like that happen behind the scenes at St. Luke’s all the time. And it’s only possible because we support St. Luke’s with our time, our talents, and our treasure.

St. Paul challenges us to be good stewards of what we have received and learned from others who cared enough to teach Jesus to us. And so I invite you to join me in continuing to support the ways that we care for one another as a church family at St. Luke’s. With your support, we are able to provide the resources and the facilities that make it possible to teach, to learn, to practice, and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We have inherited a rich legacy of mission and ministry, praise and worship, learning and growing, outreach and service, fellowship and friendship here at St. Luke’s. All of it gives glory to God by drawing us closer to Jesus and equipping us for every good work (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). All of it bears witness to the truth that our ultimate hope for this life and the next is found in Jesus Christ.

May we receive that rich legacy of faith by putting it into action, allowing it to shape our hearts, minds, and souls. And may we continue to pass it on to others.

The Rev. Bryan Owen is rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


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